Wednesday, August 1, 2012

2012 Sight and Sound Poll Results

Lists are a funny thing. Long-time readers know that since I started this blog, I’ve done a lot of them. I used to do a weekly top 10 that looked at different genres, actors, directors, performances, etc. I stopped doing these lists so often simply because I started to run out of ideas. I then did a top ten list for every year since 1927 – the first year of the Oscars. Typically, I like to do lists that are by their very nature limited – to one genre, one director, one actor, one year, etc. I do this because looking at anything wider than that I find to be a fool’s errand, and quite simply too hard. Every time anyone comes out with a list of the greatest films, performances, directors, actors, what ends up happening is far too much bitching by people who are upset that their favorites were excluded, or included but far too low for their liking, or that some film they don’t like made the list. This is the nature of the beast, and while I accept that, I cannot say I have ever gotten angry at a movie list – no matter how silly they are. All lists are quite simply nothing more than one person, or one group’s opinion. There is no “definitive” list, and any one who tells you otherwise is lying.

Having said that, the closest thing to a definitive list of the “greatest films ever made” is the Sight & Sound Critics Survey, which has been conducted every 10 years since 1952 (to see the results of the previous lists, see the previous post). In 1992, they added a directors survey as well, which is also very informative. It is the closest we have to a definitive list because of how exhaustive it is – for 2012, over 800 people were surveyed – and because it has the history to back it up. Yes, the list is still silly. And yet, it is also valuable. It also shows the shifting opinion over the years. I view the Sight & Sound list much like I do the Oscars every year. It is still not a “definitive” statement on the greatest films ever made – but it is valuable because it leads us into the debate of what the greatest films are.

Today, Sight and Sound announced the results of the 2012 list – and shock of all shocks – Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane did not top EITHER list. It had been on top since 1962 for the critics and 1992 for the directors. Citizen Kane did place second on both lists though. This is shocking in many ways – but not all. We all knew sooner or later that Kane would be displaced on the list. But I am slightly surprised by what the critics and directors picked.

The critics went with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo from 1958. This shouldn’t be too shocking since Vertigo had moved up the list ever since it first appeared in 1982 at number 4 (it was number 4 in 1992 and number 2 in 2002). I think the reason why it garnered even more support this year than in previous years is simple – there are a lot of Hitchcock fans out there, and a lot of debate as to what his best film is. It has become clear over the years that the `consensus` pick was Vertigo. So if you want a Hitchcock film to win, you throw your support there.

The rest of the top 10 had a few surprises as well. Not surprising was Tokyo Story at number 3 or The Rules of the Game at number 4, Sunrise at number 5, 2001 at number 6 or 8 ½ at number 10 – all ranked high on previous lists, so you knew they would probably do so again. I was surprised that John Ford`s The Searchers moved back into the top 10 – it ranked 11th in 2002 – simply because in recent surveys it had started to drop – and as much as I love the film, and think it is Fords best film, I kind of had the impression that critical thinking had started to turn at least somewhat against the film – I guess I was wrong. Likewise, I was mildly surprised by Dreyer`s The Passion of Joan of Arc moving back into the top 10 – after finishing 14th in 2002 – simply because I`m not sure what had changed in terms of critical thinking in regards to film from 1928 in the past 10 years. The biggest shock though was Dziga Vertov`s Man with a Movie Camera from 1929 making the list. It ranked 27th in 2002, and I expected it to maybe move a little bit – this mesmerizing documentary seems to have been talked about a lot in recent years, but moving right into the top 10 was surprising.

It should be noted that some of these films rising is due, at least in part, to new rules in 2012. Back in 2002, Sight and Sound allowed voters to vote from The Godfather and The Godfather Part II as one film – where it ended up being ranked 4th. This year, you had to vote for the films separately – and The Godfather dropped to 21st and The Godfather Part II dropped to 31st. Taken together, they would have ranked much, much higher.

A few other notes on the critics top 50. I was pleasantly surprised to see two films made after the year 2000 on the list – Wong Kar-Wai`s In the Mood for Love at number 24 and David Lynch`s Mulholland Drive at number 28 – meaning at least some critics were willing to look at most recent films rather than just the sacred films that always make this list.

I was kind of surprised that only 1 film by Welles, Scorsese and Kubrick made this list. Normally, you can count on more than that – especially when you consider that Godard had FOUR films in the top 50. Interesting.

As for the directors, they made an interesting switch at the top as well – subbing out Citizen Kane for Yasujiro Ozu`s Tokyo Story as the best film of all time. Tokyo Story is a masterpiece – one of the saddest films of all time, but remains something that only `film buffs` watch, and hasn’t really crossed over into popular appeal. I hope this helps to change that – at least a little bit. What makes it surprising was that back in 2002 – Tokyo Story ranked 16th for the directors. 2001, was tied Citizen Kane for number 2, was also surprising – moving up from 12th in 2002. 8 ½, ranked 3rd in 2002 and dropped to 4th, but that wasn’t surprising. Martin Scorsese`s Taxi Driver was another big mover – going from a tie for 31st in 2002 to 5th this year. Apocalypse Now also moved up – 19th in 2002 to 6th in 2012. The Godfather dropped from 2nd to 7th – but the new rules make it a not surprising move down. Vertigo, tied for 7th, was tied for 6th last time, so no surprise there. Bicycle Thieves dropped from 6th to 10th – but honestly, I`m surprised it’s still in the top 10. Finally, Andrei Tarkovsky`s Mirror moved up from 16th to take a spot in the top 10.

Shockingly, Lawrence of Arabia (4th), Dr. Strangelove (5th), Raging Bull (6th), The Rules of the Games (9th), Seven Samurai (also 9th) and Rashomon (also 9th) dropped out of the top 10 altogether. And since, as far as I can tell, Sight and Sound has not published anything beyond the top 10 for directors yet, we don’t know how far they fell.

Below I have posted the complete list of 50 for critics and 10 for directors. Out of all of the films listed – I have only missed 3 – Claude Lanzmann`s epic Holocaust documentary Shoah, Bela Tarr`s epic drama Satantango and Jean-Luc Godard`s epic film documentary series Historie(s) of Cinema. I guess I need to get on those.  This almost brings my look at the `greatest` films of all time. I say almost, because I have decided to take on the fool`s errand – and list my own top 10 films of all time. That will be posted in the next couple of days.

1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
3. Tokyo Story (Ozu Yasujiro, 1953)
4. The Rules of the Games (Jean Renoir, 1939)
5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (FW Murnau, 1927)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
7. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1927)
10. 8½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
11. Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
12. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
13. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
14. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
15. Late Spring (Ozu Yasujiro, 1949)
16. Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
17. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa Akira, 1954)
17. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
19. Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974)
20. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952)
21. L’avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
21. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
21. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
24. Ordet (Carl Dreyer, 1955)
24. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
26. Rashomon (Kurosawa Akira, 1950)
26. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
28. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
29. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
29. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
31. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
31. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
33. Bicycle Thieves (Vittoria De Sica, 1948)
34. The General (Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926)
35. Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
35. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
35. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
35. Sátántangó (Bela Tarr, 1994)
39. The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)
39. La dolce vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
41. Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)
42. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
42. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
42. Gertrud (Carl Dreyer, 1964)
42. Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
42. Play Time (Jacques Tati, 1967)
42. Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
48. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
48. Histoire(s) du cinema (Jean-Luc Godard, 1998)
50. City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)
50. Ugetsu monogatari (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953)
50. La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)

1. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
4. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
5. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1980)
6. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
7. The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
7. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
9. Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1974)
10. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)

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